CROMWELL, Conn. — Twelve players in the past 10 years have won at least three tournaments in one PGA Tour season.
Brendon Todd, a 34-year-old journeyman who once nearly walked away from the game to open a pizzeria while mired in a slump that would break lesser men, was trying to add his name to that heady list with a victory at the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands.
Todd took a two-shot lead into Sunday’s final round and could have joined Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Bryson DeChambeau, Jason Day, Jim Furyk and Hideki Matsuyama as players who have won at least three tournaments in one year since 2010.
But he didn’t.
After playing golf’s version of rope-a-dope for the first 11 holes, parring every one of them, Todd’s chances to win — and his day — came unhinged on the par-4 12th hole. The end result was a 5-over-par 75 and a tie for 11th.
On 12, Todd was in the middle of the fairway 148 yards from the flag, left his approach to the right and his ball came to a rest in some thick rough on the side of a grassy bank of greenside bunker.
His next shot, while uncomfortable with the awkward stance and gnarly lie, was a shot most pros will, at the very least, get safely onto the green. But Todd did what many 20 handicappers do: He skulled it over the green with the ball coming to rest in the rough some 62 feet from the hole.
Todd then left his next chip short of the green, 44 feet from the flag. Then came yet another chip that failed to reach the green. Two putts later, he staggered to the 13th tee with triple bogey.
He went from 18-under par and two shots behind eventual winner Dustin Johnson to 15-under and five shots back.
It was a deficit he couldn’t overcome.
Todd won the Bermuda Championship and the Mayakoba golf Classic in back-to-back weeks in November, shooting a combined 44-under par in those two events. He woke up Sunday morning feeling like it could be another magical day like those two weeks in November.
Based on what he did in those back-to-back wins, we knew Todd was capable of going low. He, after all, positioned himself with a two-shot lead with the 9-under-par 61 he posted on Saturday. And that came after a 66-65 start, hardly to be considered scrap-meat rounds.
Johnson, who also shot 61 in Saturday’s third round, entered the day two shots behind Todd at 16-under and swallowed Todd up in the final round — despite his own gaffes on the back nine.
Todd, a Pittsburgh native who now makes his home in Georgia, might be one of the most under-the-radar, faceless players on the PGA Tour despite his two wins in November. He, too, is a guy you root for based on the depths he spiraled to during a couple of mind-numbing slumps.
In one stretch between 2016 and 2018, Todd missed the cut in 37 of 41 tournaments. He was so lost with his swing yips that he read a book by Rick Ankiel, the former Cardinals pitcher who famously battled his own yips.
The slump prompted Todd and his wife, Rachel, to meet with their financial advisor to figure out whether it was time to pull the plug on his playing career and try something else out. Buying into a pizza chain franchise in Athens, Ga., was discussed.
“It wasn’t that we were running out of money,” Rachel told PGATour.com after her husband won Mayakoba. “It was, ‘We need to look into other options. What would be best for our family?’ ’’
Fortunately, they decided what was best was for Todd was for him to power on.
At the start of the 2019 season, months before he would win those two November tournaments, Todd was ranked No. 2,006 in the world. His ranking plummeted as low as No. 2,043. The club champion at Bethpage Black is probably ranked No. 2,044.
Before his win in Bermuda, Todd was ranked 525th in the world. He began this week 58th and was projected to move to 26th if he had won Sunday.
“A year ago, I wasn’t sure if I was going to keep playing,” Todd said after winning the Bermuda Championship.
“Not many guys come back from that deep,’’ Vaughn Taylor, a fellow University of Georgia alum, told PGATour.com after Todd won in Mexico. “The scars in this game run deep.’’
Todd added another of those scars Sunday in that fateful 12th hole.
More to overcome for a guy who’s been there and done that.